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Michael LindFreedom’s Power is an impressive achievement that deserves to be pondered by the critics of contemporary American liberalism no less than by its supporters.
— The New York Times
American politics are as fractured and partisan as they have ever been and liberalism is in greater peril than at any time in recent history. Conservatives treat it as an epithet, and even some liberals have confused it with sentimentality and socialism. But Paul Starr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one of America’s leading intellectuals, claims that, properly understood, liberalism is a sturdy public philosophy, deeply rooted in our traditions, capable of making America a ...
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American politics are as fractured and partisan as they have ever been and liberalism is in greater peril than at any time in recent history. Conservatives treat it as an epithet, and even some liberals have confused it with sentimentality and socialism. But Paul Starr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one of America’s leading intellectuals, claims that, properly understood, liberalism is a sturdy public philosophy, deeply rooted in our traditions, capable of making America a freer and more secure country.
Part political theory and part intellectual history, this book tracks the development of liberalism as the world's dominant political tradition and argues for its continued ascendancy as the best guarantor of individual rights and prosperity on the global stage. Starr, a Princeton sociology and public affairs professor and founding editor of the American Prospect, explains modern liberalism as an evolutionary process, rooted in classical laissez-faire liberalism, and gradually accreting a greater role for the state to provide a social safety net, defend equal rights for all and institute true democratic pluralism. Defending liberalism from its socialist as well as its conservative critics, Starr sees his ideology as a middle path, harnessing the creative power of the free market while tempering some of its capriciousness. A central thesis is that "[t]he peculiar internal tension of liberal constitutions is that they constrain power even as they authorize it—that is, they attempt to curb the despotic power and ambitions of individual rulers and officials and, by doing so, to permit stronger systemic capacities." The first section of the book discusses the causes and consequences of liberal revolutions in Britain, America and France, while later chapters cover recent events, including the 2006 congressional elections. Complex macroeconomic, demographic and philosophical trends are presented engagingly and understandably for casual readers and political buffs alike. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Written as "a rebuttal to contemporary conservatism and as a corrective to some currents of liberal thought and progressive politics," this intellectual history and political analysis attempts to show that modern liberalism is really a continuation of the classic liberal tradition, emphasizing constitutional government and individual rights. Starr (sociology & public affairs, Princeton Univ.; editor, The American Prospect; The Social Transformation of American Medicine) defines liberalism as "a design of power in support of freedom" and argues clearly and convincingly for liberalism as a middle ground between conservatism and socialism. In discussing the development of classical liberalism and modern democratic liberalism, Starr ranges far and wide over English, French, and American history. In looking at the present, he attacks Bush's unilateralism, insensitivity to the world's environmental problems, and lack of concern for economic equality. He believes that liberalism can regain a national majority by looking at domestic bread-and-butter issues in terms of the national interest rather than the objectives of specific interest groups and by recommitting to a multilateral approach to foreign policy. For academic and larger public libraries.